It seems my article “Six Tactical Mistakes Churches Make” hit a cord. Several commnents have been made both on and off my Blog. One of the most important comments came from Matthew: “How would you “combine evangelism and social justice into the fabric of the church?” Help me understand what that would look like.”
Here’s my response:
Matthew, this is an excellent question that goes to the heart of much of one of modern day Christianity’s most deadly heresies. I’m glad you asked the question because it shows you care about the issue.
The Dream Center in Los Angeles is one of the best examples I know of embedding social justice into the fabric of the church. The pastor, Matthew Barnett, used to be Assembly of God and is now a Four Square Gospel pastor, which means personal evangelism is high on his priority list. However, every week hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food and medical supplies is sent out by the church and its hundreds of volunteers from all over the world.
And what about Saddleback’s war on Aids or Ginghamsburg’s fight to aid the suffering people of the Sudan. The list of churches the combine evangelism and social justice is long so I will l list only one more church- the church I was pastor of for 24 years.
We had a strong outreach ministry both in evangelism and social justice. We never did a social project without introducing Jesus in some way. We were part of the first churches to begin Project Free which became Meals on Wheels (we included a pamphlet with the meals). We were the first church in the U.S. to raise all of the money and build a house for Habitat (we had a bible study during lunch and invited the neighborhood). As a result of our efforts in community organizing in San Antonio 500 million dollars was invested to insure West side homes didn’t flood every time it rained.
Matthew, I believe the Scriptures teach us you can’t feed the soul if you don’t feed the body; and it doesn’t do any good to feed the body if you don’t feed the soul.
The separation of social justice and evangelism is one of the worst forms of reductionism in the history of Christianity. The long-standing fight between liberal and conservative Christianity is one of the major blights on Christianity. It has simply truncated the church to the point that in many cases the church is a useless piece of junk that should be discarded. To say one is more important than the other is to discredit the words of Jesus found in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Social justice and evangelism are simply two sides of the same coin. One without the other is vain, stupid, and downright useless.
Over the years I’ve heard many conversations about which one is most important, evangelism or social justice. As if one could choose? Such stupidity! Such lack of understanding of the Gospel! You can’t choose one over the other and be a follower of Jesus. Not possible! Both are required for a whole Gospel.
Reductionism has hurt our witness over and over through the centuries. It’s time we quit truncating the Gospel.
I’ve also heard this argument “Evangelism isn’t always social justice but social justice is always evangelism (if you want to know more click here).” I don’t buy this argument either. I’ve seen too many people use such an argument as an excuse not to verbalize the Gospel when the time is right. I’ve dealt with a lot of church people who want to “do good” but have no interest in people coming to faith. And you know what Jesus said about being “good.”
So you see evangelism and social justice go hand in hand. When they don’t, you really don’t have a biblical church.